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National PFAS Investigation and Management Program

Pending Investigation Sites


Preliminary Sampling Program

In addition to detailed environmental investigations already underway, Defence has completed further initial assessment activities across its estate and identified that the following properties will also be subject to NEPM compliant investigations. The timing of these investigations are being considered in consultation with the relevant government and local authorities. This website will be updated as new information becomes available.

Continue down the page for answers to Frequently Asked Questions, information on Support, Reports and Contact information.

RAAF Base Townsville

RAAF Base Richmond

RAAF Base Amberley

PSP Fact Sheet

RAAF Base Wagga

RAAF Base Tindal

RAAF Base Darwin

Jervis Bay Range Facility and HMAS Creswell

Holsworthy Barracks

PSP Fact Sheet

Robertson Barracks

Albury/Wodonga Military Area (Bandiana)

HMAS Cerberus

Garden Island HMAS Stirling



Defence continues to review its estate as standard practice to ensure it is identifying and proactively managing sites that have been impacted by per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) resulting from the legacy use of fire fighting foams.

Frequently Asked Questions

Note: These FAQs include information specific to residents in the vicinity of Preliminary Sampling Program Sites:

  1. What are per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS)?
  2. What is the Preliminary Sampling Program (PSP) and what was the outcome?
  3. Where can I find a copy of the PSP Report?
  4. What do the results of the PSP Report mean to me?
  5. I have noticed the screening criteria referred to in the PSP Report is different to the criteria reflected in Defence Contamination Directive#8 (Amendment 1). Why is this?
  6. What activities will be undertaken as part of a future detailed environmental investigation at the 12 Defence properties?
  7. When will detailed environmental investigations commence and how long will they take?
  8. What alternative water supply options are available to residents located in close proximity to the 12 Defence properties?
  9. I am worried about my health and that of my family members. What can I do?
  10. How can I find out more information?

1. What are per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS)?

Per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) refers to a group of chemicals, including perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), perfluorohexane sulfonic acid (PFHxS) and 6:2 fluorotelomer sulfonate (6:2 FtS). You can read more about PFAS here.

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2. What is the Preliminary Sampling Program (PSP) and what was the outcome?

Defence undertook a preliminary sampling program in 2016 to determine the presence of PFAS on, and in the vicinity of the following 12 Defence properties:

  • RAAF Base Townsville
  • RAAF Base Amberley
  • RAAF Base Richmond
  • Holsworthy Barracks
  • RAAF Base Wagga
  • HMAS Creswell/Jervis Bay Range Facility
  • Albury Wodonga Military Area (Bandiana)
  • HMAS Cerberus
  • HMAS Stirling (Garden Island)
  • RAAF Base Tindal
  • RAAF Base Darwin
  • Robertson Barracks

The 12 properties were selected because there is a history of using legacy aqueous film forming foam (AFFF) for emergency fire fighting situations and for fire fighter training at these locations. In 2004, Defence commenced phasing out its use of legacy AFFF containing PFAS as active ingredients. The AFFF now used by Defence is a more environmentally safe product.

Preliminary sampling was intentionally limited to accessible and relevant groundwater and surface water sources. The average was 7 samples per location. The purpose was to get an initial snapshot only, in order to inform future investigation work.

PFAS was detected on, and/or in the vicinity of all 12 properties. As such, all properties will be subject to a detailed environmental investigation conducted in accordance with the National Environmental Protection (Assessment of Contaminated Sites) Measure (NEPM) framework.

For more information relating to each Defence property, please refer to the factsheets here.

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3. Where can I find a copy of the PSP Report?

The full Preliminary Sampling Program Report is available here. (44.6MB)

Individual site Reports can be located on the "Report" tab of this page.

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4. What do the results of the PSP Report mean to me?

The levels of PFAS detected varied for each property. The following table shows whether or not the PFAS detected exceeded the interim screening levels for drinking or recreational use, as specified in Defence Contamination Directive #8 (Amendment 1) dated 30 September 2016:

State/
Territory

Property

Bore Water
[Groundwater]
(drinking)

Surface Water
(recreational use)

Was PFAS detected?

Did it exceed interim screening level?

Was PFAS detected?

Did it exceed interim screening level?

QLD

RAAF Base Townsville

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

QLD

RAAF Base Amberley

Yes

No

Yes

No

NSW

RAAF Base Richmond

No

No

Yes

No

NSW

Holsworthy Barracks

No samples collected

Yes

No

NSW

RAAF Base Wagga

Yes

No

Yes

No

JBT

HMAS Creswell/
Jervis Bay Range Facility

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

VIC

Albury Wodonga Military Area (Bandiana)

No

No

Yes

No

VIC

HMAS Cerberus

No

No

Yes

No

WA

HMAS Stirling (Garden Island)

Yes

Yes

No samples collected

NT

RAAF Base Tindal

Yes

No

Yes

No

NT

RAAF Base Darwin

No samples collected

Yes

No

NT

Robertson Barracks

No

No

Yes

No

It must be stressed that these results are a snapshot of PFAS presence only. Detailed environmental investigations are now required to gain a full understanding of the nature and extent of PFAS present at each property.

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5. I have noticed the screening criteria referred to in the PSP Report is different to the criteria reflected in Defence Contamination Directive #8 (Amendment 1). Why is this?

Defence understands that Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) is developing toxicity reference values for PFAS. These are expected to be released by the end of 2016.

As an interim measure, Defence has adopted interim screening criteria for PFOS, PFOA, PFHxS, and 6:2 FtS. These criteria represent the concentrations where action should be taken to reduce exposure to PFAS and/or further assessment should be undertaken. The interim screening criteria adopted by Defence are primarily based on guidance issued by the Environmental Health Standing Committee (enHealth) of the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee in June 2016, together with the findings of other relevant scientific studies.

The latest interim screening criteria for groundwater (drinking) and surface water (recreational use) are specified in Defence Contamination Directive #8 (Amendment 1) dated 30 September 2016.

The screening criteria reflected in the PSP Report is from an earlier version of Defence Contamination Directive #8, which was superseded by Defence Contamination Directive #8 (Amendment 1) after the PSP Report was finalised.

Amendments to the screening criteria do not alter the detection results.

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6. What activities will be undertaken as part of future detailed environmental investigations at the 12 Defence properties?

Detailed environmental investigations are undertaken by independent and experienced environmental services providers and are undertaken in accordance with the National Environmental Protection (Assessment of Site Contamination) Measure (NEPM) framework. Detailed environmental investigations include:

  • reviewing the historical use, storage and management of aqueous film forming foam (AFFF) to identify potential sources of PFAS;
  • sampling soil, sediment, surface water and groundwater on and off the base to identify PFAS exposure in the vicinity;
  • identifying pathways and receptors for the potential migration of PFAS. A ‘receptor’ is a person or thing (e.g. plant or animal) that can be exposed to these compounds. A ‘pathway’ is the way in which they can be exposed (e.g. drinking water or eating food containing these compounds);
  • community and stakeholder engagement, including a water-use survey; and
  • a Human Health and Ecological Risk Assessment (if required), which will evaluate potential risks to the human population and ecology, and inform future action to mitigate risks.

When detailed environmental investigation reports are finalised and publicly released, Defence will consult with residents, businesses and local stakeholders on the findings.

Defence provides the environmental investigation reports to relevant government stakeholders.  This ensures they have current information on which to inform their management decisions.

Defence takes detailed environmental investigations very seriously and is committed to implementing appropriate management responses based on the advice of independent scientific experts in this field.

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7. When will detailed environmental investigations commence and how long will it take?

Detailed environmental investigations will commence in 2017. Specific dates will be advised once Defence has consulted with relevant federal, state/territory and local government authorities.

The investigations will take approximately 12 months to complete and will determine the full nature and extent of PFAS on, and in the vicinity of, the properties.

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8. What alternative water supply options are available to residents located in close proximity to the 12 Defence properties?

Defence relies on guidance statements from the Environmental Health Standing Committee (enHealth) of the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee. Guidance statementsareavailable on the Department of Health website:
 www.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/content/health-pubhlth-publicat-environ.htm

Accordingly, Defence has adopted a precautionary approach and is providing alternative sources of drinking water to eligible residents located in close proximity to the 12 Defence properties who do not have a town water connection, and rely on the use of a bore for drinking water. Defence will also provide water to residents if drinking water is sourced from a rainwater tank that contains, or has in the past contained, bore water.  Defence may also provide drinking water to residents in other exceptional circumstances.

Residents are welcome to contact Defence’s PFAS national hotline by phone or email to discuss eligibility for water assistance and possible management strategies. Each household’s drinking water requirements will be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

    • National hotline: Call 1800 365 414 freecall (business hours) or

Email: PFASDefenceCoordination@golder.com.au

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9. I am worried about my health and that of my family members. What can I do?

Most people living in developed nations will have levels of PFAS in their body as these compounds have also been used in common household and industrial applications. According to the Environmental Health Standing Committee (enHealth) Guidance Statements on PFAS, released in June 2016, there is currently no consistent evidence that exposure to PFAS causes adverse human health effects.  However, because these compounds persist in humans and the environment, enHealth recommends that human exposure is minimised as a precaution.

Defence is not an authority on public health or ecological issues. The provision of advice on these matters is the role of respective federal, state and local government authorities. Defence takes environmental investigations very seriously and is committed to implementing appropriate management responses based on the advice of independent experts in this field.
Additional information relating to health can be found under the support page of this webpage.

Please also refer to the above factsheet specific to the Defence property in your location for other useful links.

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10. How can I find out more information?

Defence will conduct a community briefing and information activity prior to the commencement of the detailed environmental investigations.   Information will be made available on the Defence PFAS Investigation and Management website under PSP Community Consultation tab when dates have been set. 

You can also contact the national hotline on 1800 365 414 freecall (business hours) or email PFASDefenceCoordination@golder.com.au

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Support

Health Information

Defence cannot provide health advice as this is the role of respective State and/or local health authorities and practitioners.  Defence’s position on health issues relating to PFOS and PFOA aligns with the enHealth guidance statements.

The following links are provided to support community awareness.

Drinking Water

The Environmental Health Standing Committee (enHealth) of the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee advises that there is currently no consistent evidence that exposure to PFOS and PFOA causes adverse human health effects.
However, because these chemicals persist in humans and the environment, enHealth recommends that human exposure to these chemicals is minimised as a precaution.

Defence cannot provide health advice. This is the role of respective Australian Government, State/Territory and local health authorities and practitioners. Defence relies on the enHealth Guidance Statements, available on the Department of Health website: www.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/content/health-pubhlth-publicat-environ.htm

Accordingly, Defence has adopted a precautionary approach and is providing alternative sources of drinking water to eligible residents located in close proximity of bases who rely on the use of a bore for drinking water pending the results of the detailed investigations and the extent of PFAS contamination. Defence will also provide water to residents if drinking water is sourced from a rainwater tank that contains, or has in the past contained, bore water.  Defence may also provide drinking water to residents in other exceptional circumstances.

Each household’s drinking water requirements will be assessed on a case-by-case basis to determine the most appropriate water supply arrangements that Defence may be able to provide.

Residents in close proximity of bases, who do not have a town water connection, and drink bore water (directly or via rainwater tanks), are welcome to contact the project team to discuss possible management strategies.  Management strategies may include:

  • Supplying eligible residents with quantities of 600ml bottles or 10L containers of water.
  • Refilling eligible residents’ rainwater tanks with potable water.  Before a household can start receiving tank water, an assessment of the condition of the rainwater tank will be made by Defence. If the tank is suitable for cleaning and re-filling with potable water, Defence will arrange this. A sample of water from the point of use (eg kitchen tap) will also be collected and analysed, and Defence will send a letter providing the results.  If the tank is not suitable for cleaning and re-filling with potable water, residents may receive bottled water.

To find out if you are eligible for water assistance, please contact the project team by phone or email. You will be asked to complete a short questionnaire to gather information about your water use (this can be done over the phone) and this information will be used to assess your eligibility for alternative water. 

If you are eligible for water assistance, there is no cost in getting alternative water delivery from Defence. 
The length of time this assistance will be provided will be assessed on a case-by-case basis and will depend on:

  • the outcomes of Defence’s detailed investigation, including the extent of PFAS contamination and associated risk assessment and management strategies selected; and
  • each household’s situation, water use and available access options.

The provision of alternative water supplies by Defence will be reviewed on completion of each detailed investigation, or sooner if information is obtained that suggests such a review is warranted.  The project team will contact residents directly about any proposed changes to water assistance arrangements.

Reports

Contacts

For more information or to provide feedback please contact:

National Hotline Number: 1800 365 414 
EmailPFASDefenceCoordination@golder.com.au